Pakistani Weddings Customs and Traditions
Weddings are a practice or a ceremony that unites two individuals. A wedding is an approach or a manner that different culture, societies, ethnic groups and religions aspire to unite two individuals in marriage. A wedding usually has a mandate personality who attests to the matrimonial contract and usually the bride and groom exchange representative items, such as a ring or any jewelry, as gifts to each other. The bride and the groom wear outstanding attire for their remarkable day.
A wedding usually consists of an after party of sorts known as the ‘reception’. Music, dance routines, religious and cultural activities are part of a wedding too.
These are the general initiatives of a wedding but a traditional Pakistani wedding comprise of other aspects, which if not followed, result into a “disappointment” as recalled by the society.
Features of a Traditional Pakistani Wedding
According to Pakistani marriages which follow the Islamic Law (Shariah), as the majority population of Pakistan are Muslim; the matrimonial agreement is not just the unification of two individuals but a union between two families. A Pakistani wedding usually has vast number of events which vary according to the diverse Muslim communities, but the routine events of usual Pakistani Wedding are as follows:
- Marraige Proposal
- Engagement ceremony
- Henna ceremony
- Barat and Nikkah
Polygyny in Pakistan
As Pakistan is a Muslim country, according to the Islamic Law, a man can be married to four women at the same time which is called Polygyny but under the marriage act of 1965, the man has to have a written consent of his former wife or wives to engage in marriage with another woman. Polygyny has become unique in Pakistan, especially in urban areas.
The Concept of Love VS. Arranged Marriages in Pakistan
As dating between a man and a woman are considered dishonorable for both sides of the family; the marriages are usually arranged by the parents and elder individuals of the families. An arranged marriage is usually finalized on the common ground of religious group, wealth and social background of the bride/grooms family.
However, Love marriages are becoming common in Pakistan due to the adoption of western cultures amongst the youth and dating is done in secrecy which usually leads to a marriage.
Budget and Time Estimated For a Typical Pakistani Marriage
As for the Pakistani wedding, it is the union between two families, the two families put in all their effort, time and money to make the ceremony as lavish as possible. The amount of events requires an estimated budget and agreement between the two families. The ceremony is divided into two parts, the proposal and engagement usually takes place a year before the actual marriage (the events follow), between these times, the two families prepare for the marriage and get to know each other better.
The Procedure of the Pakistani Wedding
When the proposal is finalized amongst the two families, the events of the ceremony officially begin and the date of the official proposal ceremony is finalized. Accommodation is set up for various relatives who are expected to attend the wedding from abroad or across Pakistan. Some people do not follow all the events but the main 3 events that are, Baraat and Nikkah, Henna ceremony and Valima. However, the ways these events are carried out depend on the geographical location of the wedding across Pakistan.
The Official Proposal Ceremony
A proposal party is held at the bride’s residence where the groom’s family officially asks for the bride’s hand in marriage which is followed by exchange of gifts and Surat-ul-fatiha is recited. This party usually takes place in the evening and tea time snacks and tea is provided to the guests.
A formal gathering on a rather large scale is held to announce the engagement between the bride and the groom. According to traditions, the bride and the groom are supposed to be separately engaged, where the bride is given the ring by the groom’s mother on a separate day and the groom is given the ring by bride’s mother on a separate day.
However, now a days, two engagement parties are too much of a hassle for both the families so the bride and groom exchange rings the same day, which is followed by exchange of family heirlooms and gifts, religious quotes from the Holy Quran are recited and the date for the wedding is decided. A formal dinner is arranged for the guests.
It is basically an event where the bride’s and groom’s family, separately arrange a party at their respectable residence. The party consists of the women preparing dance routines for the following Henna function and the playing of the instrument called Dholak, along with old traditional wedding melodies which are sung amongst the family.
The henna ceremony usually takes place two to three days before the Nikkah. It traditionally consists of two events, each one for the bride and the groom. The bride does not accompany the groom at his henna ceremony and vice versa.
Groom’s Hina Ceremony
Traditionally, the groom’s henna ceremony consists of the bride’s family and the relatives bringing oil and sweets, the oil is applied to the groom’s hair and the groom on this day wears casual Shalwaar/kurta.
Bride’s Hina Cremony
On the Bride’s Henna ceremony, the Groom’s family bring Henna and sweets with them and the henna is applied to the bride’s hands by the groom’s relatives, the bride wear bright yellow , orange or green and usually does not apply makeup or wears jewelry. The women folk get Henna applied to their palms too. Dance routines and skits are performed as to make the occasion more happening.
Nowadays the bride’s and groom’s Henna ceremony is held together and all the traditions are performed by the respective families.
Barat and Nikkah
Barat is principally the arrival of the groom at the Nikkah ceremony accompanied by his relatives and family members on a horse carriage and a band playing songs follows. Nikkah is an Islamic act, where the bride and groom sign a marriage contract followed by the recital of Quranic Surahs and Dua for the married couple’s future. The act of Nikkah is observed by close relatives and family in the presence of an official “imam” licensed by the government.
Marriage is considered illegal without Nikkah. The marriage is only consensual when both the bride and the groom have two witnesses present.
The Nikkah either takes place a day before the reception or at the same venue before the reception ceremony begins. The relatives arrive at the bride’s residence where the wedding reception is supposed to take place or a hall booked by the bride’s family. The barat is welcomed with shower of roses by various members of the bride’s family. Sisters and cousins of the bride demand cash in order to allow the groom to enter the hall.
The Groom is dressed in traditional attire, “Sherwani” with a headpiece known as the ‘Sehra’ or ‘turban’. However, the bride wears a red, purple or pink traditional dress called ‘lengha’ which comprise of heavy embroidery, the bride also wears bridal style shoes and heavy gold jewelry or traditional gold plated jewelry along with bridal hair style and makeup. The scrumptious dinner is arranged by the bride’s family which is followed by various desi desserts.
Rukhsati is a tradition in which the bride and the groom followed by the groom’s family leave the reception ceremony towards the groom’s residence.
The Holy Quran is held at the top of the bride’s head to shower lords blessings and in order to protect her. This indicates that the bride is now supposed to lead a new life with her husband and new family, which usually results in tears shed by the bride and her family.
The Valima ceremony is the final dinner organized by the wedded couple after their marriage is consumed and publicized. The basic purpose is to celebrate their marriage. The dinner arrangement and the wife’s dress and gold jewelry is provided by the husband. The Valima ceremony also signifies the blessings of the groom’s parents upon the married couple for a content marriage life.
The wedding officially ends with wedding present presented to the bride and groom usually in the form of cash. The couple decides a honeymoon destination as to celebrate the first few days of marriage, the northern areas of Pakistan are usually chosen as the honeymoon destination; however well off families prefer overseas honeymoon trip.